Between a Rock and a Hard Place …
Knowing how to vote in the Ontario provincial election, which is a mere nine weeks away, may be easy for some but it will not be for me. Never in my memory has there been such a polarization of political philosophy or such a stark contrast between the two leading proponents in the coming campaign. The Liberals are outflanking the NDP on the left as they try to buy their way back into government with our tax dollars, and the so-called Progressive Conservatives appear to be veering further to the right. There seems to be no middle ground any more. It almost appears as if the battle lines are drawn in this province, between socialism and populism. This campaign is going to be a blood bath.
It is hard to believe that Kathleen Wynne and her Liberal Party can win another mandate to govern in Ontario. Wynne’s personal approval rating is somewhere between 12 and 17 per cent, depending on which poll you read. The government she has led has been riddled with scandal. Under her watch, hydro rates have increased to the point of real hardship for many Ontario families. The provincial debt has mushroomed to well over $300 billion, a sum so huge it is difficult for many to contemplate what that really means. It is also larger than any sub-government in the entire world!
The Liberal government in Ontario could care less about the debt they are piling on the backs of ordinary people for generations to come. If there was ever any doubt, just hear what MPP Bob Delaney, a member of the Wynne caucus had to say:
“We have tripled the debt and we are proud of it. Because we can afford it. It’s the responsible thing to do. It’s the correct thing to do. It’s what people have asked us to do and I would do it again.”
I can only shake my head.
In my view, Kathleen Wynne has created a welfare state in Ontario and her recent budget projections, adding yet another $8 billion to the provincial debt, indicate that she has no intention of stopping. By all the evidence, it should be pretty clear that she will be shown the door this June. But I wonder.
Éric Grenier is a CBC journalist. He conducts a poll tracker which is a compilation of all current available polls. He has a good track record for accuracy. His current projections are that if the election were held today, the Conservatives under Ford, would garner 42.1 per cent of the vote and would form a majority government. The Liberals would get 27.2 per cent of the vote and the NDP 23.5 per cent. In a legislature with 126 seats, this would result in 84 seats for a Ford government. At first blush, it seems like a shoe-in for Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservatives. But, again, I wonder.
For one thing, the election is two months away and anything can happen in that space of time. One need only go back to 1985 to be reminded of that. Frank Miller went into a provincial election with a 54 per cent approval rating but at the end of the day he was unable to hold on to the government for the Conservatives.
As well, it is difficult to know exactly what Doug Ford stands for. He uses all the correct catch phrases for Conservatives— smaller government, control of spending, help for the little guy, strict debt management and balanced budgets—but to date, no real plan and no real vision. Buzz words alone will not win an election.
In the meantime, Kathleen Wynne is giving away the store, followed closely by her NDP counterpart, Andrea Horwath. Just about everything is free or subsidized. Wynne’s most recent budget, with all of its goodies, will appeal to many who are more concerned about short-term gains than runaway deficits. Indeed, since the budget was tabled, Wynne’s approval numbers have increased.
People may not like Kathleen Wynne, but to replace her many will want to know that Doug Ford has a better plan for the future of Ontario and the people who live here. So far, we have not seen it.
Then, of course, there is Doug Ford himself. It will be interesting to see if Ontario is really ready for Trump-lite. Ford said recently that he doesn’t give “two hoots” about Donald Trump. But he has praised him in the past and said had he been a United States resident he would have voted for him. Trump and Ford have a number of similar traits. Both are bombastic, both are street fighters and both mistrust the media. And, like Trump, Ford Nation has a history that is somewhat checkered and could come back to bite the new leader of the Ontario Conservatives. And so, if it quacks like a duck and it walks like a duck…well…
All of the above is to say that this election campaign will be, in my view, much more of a horse race than current polling would indicate. Both Ford and Wynne are vicious campaigners. There will be no quarter given. The gloves will be off; the dirt will fly. At the end of the day, however, the choices will be stark and either outcome will come with a full basket of serious concerns. At this point in time, for me at least, when it comes to voting I am between a rock and a hard place. Not a pleasant place to be.
Don’t miss out on Doppler! Sign up for our free newsletter here.